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Column Why do people try so hard with someone who's not interested?

There’s no law against going on the pull, but drunken suitors who can’t take a hint can spoil a good night out, writes Lisa McInerney.

WE WERE OUT on the town the other night, my friends and I.

While it might be tempting to imagine us as a parade of giggling nitwits or devoted enthusiasts of the Sex and the City lifestyle, our trajectory was more along the lines of pints, flats and guffawing. On any given night you’re likely to spot drifting swarms of dolled-up lasses on the pull, but for every towering heeled lady dressed to impress there’s another two who’ve brushed their hair and called that a triumph. We were out to meet up, share some stories and have a gargle, so on this occasion the false lashes and bodycons were left at home.

We drank and laughed in a couple of pubs without incident. It was pushing one in the morning and none of us were ready to go home, so we decided to hit the late bars to continue the craic and maybe, should the mood take us, bust some moves on the dancefloor.

I can’t say ‘big mistake’, because there’s no way we didn’t see it coming, but I guess we all thought we were long enough in the tooth to deal with it and casually dressed enough to discourage it. No sooner had we arrived in the door of our chosen late night establishment than the aggravation began. Stares, wandering hands, ill-coordinated gestures, and some incomprehensible mumbles – it was the drunken suitors brigade, and they were out in force.

There’s no law against going on the pull. Hell, it should be encouraged. Where else are you going to meet potential lip-lockers with their lucky pants on, smelling like Beyoncé or wearing the entire Lynx back catalogue in one heady burst? The social atmosphere and alcohol-loosened inhibitions are conducive to meeting new people and who knows, you may even be lucky enough to still fancy them in the morning.

And this is no concession to Samantha Brick levels of delusion, either. The only thing striking about me is the palm of my hand, and while my friends and I certainly weren’t sporting Zoolander’s Derelicte line, neither were we rockin’ the stomach-in/boobs-out look. We were so relatively plain we might as well have been undercover.

Is there any known deterrent?

And yet they came. Would-be ladies’ men, gripping their pint glasses like bars of wet soap, tongue-tied by Dutch courage and the indignant assumption that they’ll fail no matter what they say. Despite the fact that we weren’t gazing around us with sultry eyes and fluttering lashes, despite our being deep in conversation, despite what our body language screamed, drunken eejits approached, one after the other, like a circle of thugs in a bad kung-fu flick.

And it wasn’t as if they had anything to say – they didn’t. They approached, gurgled something unintelligible, looked plaintive, and shuffled off again (sometimes with a garbled insult) after being persistently ignored for, oh, five awkward minutes?

This isn’t unusual. It’s something many women come to expect of a late night out. Nor is it confined to male irritants; I’ve been approached and annoyed by fluthered lesbians, and while I don’t have any anecdotal evidence to suggest that men are also subjected to the misdirected affections of drunk women, it’s certainly not outside the realms of possibility (though it’s still frowned upon for a woman to be so sexually direct, so it’s not a stretch to suggest this doesn’t happen quite as often).

To be clear, we’re not talking here about charming chaps lubricated by a few social pints and approaching with friendly intent; we’re strictly on about the drunken fools who stick their hands up passing ladies’ skirts, waffle in their ears despite strong indications that the subject is uncomfortable, and follow them around clubs in the hope that their chosen target has the memory of a goldfish or amazingly cyclical romantic preferences.

What makes people do this?

It’s genuinely strange. Even taking into account the dulled response times and leeching tact brought about by a few too many gin and tonics, why would anyone approach a person in a club who’s clearly not interested in speaking with them? Who’s dressed in the manner of a plain clothes police officer, oblivious to hungry eyes and giving off all of the signals of the oft-called-upon ‘Please Leave Me Alone Unless My Hair’s On Fire’ method.

Genuine question: what possesses a presumably functional adult to turn into a cumbersome, leering oaf armed to annoy the largest amount of potential romantic partners in the shortest amount of time?

Of course alcohol has something to do with it, but it’s not as simple as that. Many a sozzled person has attended a public shindig without getting thrown out for groping other partygoers, so while the lost inhibitions of the pickled may contribute towards the reason, they’re not the entire story either. Is it the first world culture of entitlement? Is it the highly sexualised society we live in, encouraging the less intuitive amongst us to assume everyone’s available for illicit encounters, whether or not they appear to invite proposals? Is it that some people are just… a bit stupid?

One thing’s certain – being propositioned by drunken people is an recreational hazard in Ireland. Such is life. But you’d have to wonder whether those who wake up alone on Sunday mornings with a pounding head and a gnawing feeling that they might have been a bit over-the-top in their hormonal escapades are ever a little bit mortified? Or is the single-minded, single-malted, singularly irritating pursuit of one’s chosen gender on a Saturday night nothing to be embarrassed about at all?

Read previous columns on by Lisa McInerney >

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